Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Worth a Second Look
Now that all of the flowers are open the pinxter, Rhododendron nudiflorum, deserves a second look. It is common here to see one of these plants in the front yards of older homes. That placement in full sun sometimes results in a weak plant that cannot compare with a wild specimen at forest's edge near damp soil. The inside NW corner of the stone wall provides shade for the base of the plant each afternoon while the upper branches will grow into full sun. If we provide ample water, the plant should thrive in this location.
In 1771 Peter Kalm described pinxter flowers as having some smell but that it was not very pleasant. Later writers commonly downplay the scent of this plant. I have always been enchanted by the subtle spicy fragrance of these blossoms. For me, arbutus followed by clove currant then pinxter fills each spring with one delicious scent after another.
The fifteen year delay between acquisition of these native plants and first flower was the result of two factors. I was resistant to taking these plants from the wild. Three tiny specimens wedged between the roots of a tree were all that I would take. Larger flowering plants were left undisturbed. Then the three runts were placed in dry woods. They needed more moisture and more light. Flowers followed three years after the move to a better location. There is no satisfactory explanation for the twelve years of neglect endured by this plant. Two still await rescue.
The protruding business parts of these flowers are a bit brazen. The bright pink color does not soften this visual statement. Add in the sweet spicy smell and a compelling scene is created.